Thursday, July 30, 2015

Black and White

 Ink Batiks on Rice Paper - 10 X 8

It's simple, it's timeless, it's dramatic - that 's why I like black and white.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday, July 20, 2015

Act of Confession

"If you can't draw well, tracing won't hurt; and if you can't draw well, tracing won't help."
Bradley Schmehl

Drawing is not my favorite thing to do.   For me, drawing has been used as a means to get lost in thinking, to go to that special place where imagination and creativity magically appear.

Drawing is also a means to an end; it provides a good foundation for a painting.

I just don't like to draw.  (Oh, and I can still remember the look of horror on Helen's face when I told her this.)  Of course, I do draw, but I struggle with it at times.

I envy those who have a passion to draw, whose drawings are accurate and have that distinctive elegant line.   Most artists have gone through miles of drawing paper and have evolved into skillful, sensitive craftsmen.   For them, a beautiful drawing is the end, the goal. 

"An artist is a sketchbook with a person attached."
Irwin Greenberg 

Blank sketchbooks.  I have more...

The point is that it doesn't matter whether or not you enjoy drawing.  You have to draw.  Your drawing skills, good or poor, will be translated into your painting whether you like it or not.   Helen, who gave me most of these sketchbooks, talked about this all the time.

"Drawing is the basis of art.  A bad painter cannot draw.  But one who draws well can always paint."
Arshile Gorky

Last night I  found my drafting pencil and started drawing on some watercolor paper.   I actually enjoyed it.

And since I dragged out all of those sketchbooks, I will get reacquainted with one.  I usually only draw on newsprint.  I never wanted to mess up the sketchbooks with bad drawings.  Helen will shake her head when she reads this.

She will shake her head because I had forgotten one of her valuable pieces of advice; that you never have to show your sketchbook to anyone.  Your drawings are just for you.

Friday, July 17, 2015

25 More Things to Love About Art

 1.  A favorite studio easel
 2.  An oil painting palette
 3.  Art history
 4.  Artists' sketchbooks
 5.  Girl with a Pearl Earring (the book & the painting)

Girl with a Pearl Earring - Johannes Vermeer

 6.  Life drawing
 7.  Flat files
 8.  The stories of artists
 9.  Art walks
10. Quotes by artists

"If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: 
I am here to live out loud."
Emile Zola

11. Doodles
12. Illustration
13. Art Supplies
14. Museum exhibitions
15. Refrigerator art

16. Erasers
17. The golden mean
18. The principles of design
19. Street art
20. The Impressionists Movie (BBC Mini-Series)

21. Art that makes you laugh.
22. Art that makes you cry.
23. Art that makes you think.
24. Art that makes you happy.
25. Art that makes you come alive.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Beauty - Batik with Ink

Beauty - Batik with Ink - 16X12

"There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection.  To me, that is the true essence of beauty."
Steve Maraboli

Friday, July 3, 2015

How I Found My Mentor

Tim and I started painting in the early 2000s while living in Detroit.  We admired many artists, and were aware that painter Helen Cartmell was quite the local celebrity.

Artwork by Helen Cartmell

In September, 2007, Helen was featured in a solo exhibit called "Destinations" at the Art Center in Mt. Clemens (a Detroit suburb).   Unfortunately, we were unable to attend the opening reception, but visited the exhibition later in the week.

Artwork by Helen Cartmell

Helen's work was just jaw-dropping.  How could we have missed the opportunity to have met her on opening night?   Oh, how I wanted to take some photographs.

Artwork by Helen Cartmell

I talked to the director of the Art Center and she jotted down Helen's home phone number and suggested I call her to get permission to take pictures.   Well, I was too embarrassed to just call her, so I made Tim do it.  Helen not only graciously agreed to let us photograph her artwork, but invited us to visit her home studio the following week.  She also suggested we bring along some of our own paintings and drawings.

Artwork by Helen Cartmell

Between gathering pieces of art to show Helen, I did a little detective work on the computer.  Just who was this Helen Cartmell or how nervous should I really be?  Well, I got more nervous when I read some of her accomplishments. 

Helen went to Cass Tech, that special local high school for the smart, artsy kids.  Then she attended the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, later renamed the College for Creative Studies, the best art school in the Midwest.  Wyland even went there!

Artwork by Helen Cartmell

Multiple fellowships at the Ossabaw Island Project in Georgia and LaNapoule, France were awarded to Helen.  She studied in Italy.  She painted in Greece.   She also took numerous master classes with Jack Beal (the father of the New York Realist movement) and his artist wife Sondra Freckelton on their farm in New York.  She took annual portrait workshops with Milton Kobayashi in Arizona for years.   Helen's work was in public and private national and international collections.  That got my attention.

Artwork by Helen Cartmell

So, the day of reckoning finally arrived.  Tim and I knocked on her door at about 10AM.   Thinking back, we didn't have any mutual friends; we could have been Bonnie and Clyde or something for all Helen knew...

Anyway, the door opened and this beautiful 84-year-old woman appeared.  Her big smile melted our nervousness, and we spent the next four and a half hours looking at and talking about art. 

In fact, we spent the next four and a half years looking at and talking about art. 

Artwork by Helen Cartmell

Tim and I visited Helen once a week, usually on a Thursday, pretty much without exception.  And the more we got to know Helen, the more we realized how blessed we were to have met this generous woman.

Artwork by Helen Cartmell

Our weekly visits with Helen ended when we moved from Michigan to Oregon.  Losing our face-to-face time with her was heartbreaking, but Helen's encouragement and "I love you"s can still be heard over the phone. 

In fact, I hear her voice every time I'm in the studio ("Patience."); every time I'm tempted to rip up a piece of artwork ("Not yet!"); every time I sell a painting ("I'm so proud of you!").  

Artwork by Helen Cartmell

Helen and I have laughed together and cried together.  I have had the honor of watching her paint,  learning some her painting secrets, and ingesting her excellent advice.  But Helen has also shared important life lessons with me -  things that have taken her years to understand.

Artwork by Helen Cartmell

Because I met Helen, I am not only a better artist, but a better person.


Thank you, Helen.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

U is for Unreasonable Watercolor Batik

Watercolor Batik on Rice Paper - 8X10

The beauty of doing a piece of artwork you don't like is having the option to crop it.   Our friend and mentor Helen once scolded me for being too quick to discard a failed painting.  She then demonstrated how to remove an oil painting from stretcher bars, cut the canvas, and restretch onto smaller bars with a more pleasing crop.

Of course, cropping is a bit easier when a drawing, watercolor batik or a painting is on paper.   Today's batik was originally 12X16.  It was the second attempt at doing this dog and I messed up the left side of his face.   Since I wasn't up to the challenge of attempting number three, I cropped His Unreasonableness.  Well, don't tell Helen, but I still really don't like it.

Tomorrow is a another day.